Maintenance of law and order is crucial
- President stresses in 35th anniversary address

Guyana Chronicle
May 27, 2001

`Those who despair and are frightened by our present challenges have too soon forgotten the heroic deeds of our forefathers. They were physically suppressed and restrained but their minds and hearts were always free.'

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo has stressed that the maintenance of law and order in the country is essential.

In an address to the nation from the National Park in Georgetown to mark yesterday's 35th anniversary of Independence, he said this was a "crucial element" for no society can move forward if it does not adhere to civilised norms.

Here's the text of the President's address:

Fellow Guyanese: Thirty-five years ago we shook off the shackles of colonial bondage and chose to live as free men and women rather than to exist as servants in our own land.

We were anxious, ready and prepared to undertake the building of a new nation and the construction of a new society.

On this the eve of the thirty-fifth anniversary of our political independence; a night when Guyana remembers "our heroes of yore, both bondsmen and free who laid their bones on your shore" it is necessary to take stock of ourselves. We must recount the past, and assess the present with the aim of forging a vision for the future.

Every nation and every citizen needs to periodically undertake this sober contemplation. It must lead us to seek innovative means in a changing world, to meet the unchanging values and ideals that inspired us.

Fellow Guyanese, I am convinced that as a people we will not ignore the sweep of history. We will not undervalue the monumental sacrifices of our foreparents. We will not underestimate the perils we have overcome.

We will recall the rivers crossed, and remember that we crossed them together. In essence, our history must serve to illuminate the fact that we prevailed and conquered when we worked harmoniously together.

Those who despair and are frightened by our present challenges have too soon forgotten the heroic deeds of our forefathers. They were physically suppressed and restrained but their minds and hearts were always free.

Those who are timid in our time of challenge and fear the future must resort with regularity to our history and there find lessons in courage and deeds of fortitude for emulation.

In the decades leading to May 1966 the Guyanese people were united in their determination to, once and for all time, end colonial domination. The descendants of slaves and indentured labourers, Amerindians and Chinese and Portuguese desired the same good. They wanted a life of dignity.

Their unity was a fearsome development. It was this unity that destroyed the old demeaning system and provided the opportunity for us to build a new society.

The past reveals our ability to bury differences and disagreements. It tells the story of our willingness to forgo partisan political interests for the common good of our people.

Fellow Guyanese, in the past we have laboured earnestly to build the economies of others; now we must work for ourselves to secure our families and build our communities and our country.

We need to recapture the spirit of honest labour. I fear that too many of our countrymen are losing the courage and pride that hard work brings.

Let me say Guyana must afford all our people the right and opportunity to earn a decent livelihood. She, our motherland, must abound with opportunities for wealth creation. All our people must have the opportunity to escape the grasp of poverty and break out from the prisons of deprivation.

Today we may ask ourselves: what have we achieved? We ask this question not to beat our breasts over our successes or to brood over our failures. The relevance of the question is in knowing what more we must do to achieve the towering objectives we set ourselves at Independence.

One key objective was to improve the welfare of our people. Considering our setbacks, local and international, and discounting the many opportunities for progress we have lost, we have achieved much.

We have much to be proud of: we have remained a united and free Guyana. We have demonstrated that we have the courage to confront and correct the problems that the colonial situation spawned. We have maintained national cohesion under the stress of threats to our multi-ethnic society and inspite of challenges to our sovereignty.

But let us make no mistake and be complacent. We must move away from competitively destructive politics. For there are always those who are weak and succumb to base instincts of race hate, religious intolerance and violence.

They must be identified and isolated. They must not be allowed to succeed. Guyana has no place for them!

Fellow Guyanese, we have toiled to transform this land over the past decades. Our familiarity leads us to take these developments for granted. But many Guyanese who return after years overseas and many foreigners observe the progressive changes.

Where there were pastures, we have modern housing schemes; where there were mud dams we have asphalted roads; where there were swamps we have large agricultural holdings.

However, much more remains to done and let us admit that we could have achieved more. In the past a combination of bad policies and negative external conditions conspired to remove Guyana from among the more developed countries in the Caribbean.

Let us not be daunted. I am optimistic about our future. I have great faith in the resolve of our people to move our country forward.

We must move with alacrity to implement our vision of a better tomorrow for Guyana. Much of our thinking, on the way forward is embodied in the National Development Strategy that has been tabled in Parliament. It is my hope that this strategy will be nationally embraced.

For any vision to materialise we need to create the necessary environment. A vital component of this environment is the adoption of a modern constitutional framework and legal infrastructure.

Today we are fashioning a Constitution that is in keeping with our economic, social, cultural and political realities.

We took our people's desire to a new level when we made a quantum leap in respect to governance in our country. Through representative democracy, twenty-five members are now elected directly by constituencies to the National Assembly.

The broadening and deepening of the rights and freedoms of our people are of fundamental importance. At the same time, citizens must have a greater sense of responsibility towards their country and their fellow Guyanese.

We must continue to display respect, tolerance and understanding. This is an imperative in a multi-cultural society like ours. Additionally, there is need for all our major institutions to be strengthened and made more responsive, especially those delivering services to the people.

A crucial element is the maintenance of law and order. No society can move forward if it does not adhere to civilised norms. We must respect and support the institutions responsible for law and order.

These institutions are vital for internal orderliness and the maintenance of our national security, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

I want to stress the need for a national ethos that creates the right attitudes and values. There is need for an infusion of camaraderie, a sense of care, the development of self-help and co-operation and togetherness. Guyana needs that spirit of renewed patriotism and sense of national pride.

My Fellow Guyanese, since Independence, our world has changed in unimaginable ways. Many rich nations are today less generous with their wealth leading to critical shortfalls in official donor assistance to poor countries. Historical ties and special compensatory trade terms founded on moral principles and cemented by long relationships are being abandoned and sacrificed.

Globalisation is moving rapidly. Preferential markets are shrinking, and, in many cases, have disappeared. Large nations are forming mega-trading blocs and entire hemispheres are collapsing into single free markets.

To cope with these changes, we must make adjustments. We must restructure the traditional sectors such as rice, sugar and bauxite and make them more competitive.

We must diversify our economic base to reduce our vulnerability to the volatility of global markets. We must reorient our tax system to make Guyana an attractive destination for investment and at the same time preserve our revenue base.

We must deepen regional and bilateral relations to advance our economic and political interests.

For these adjustments to be successful, greater emphasis must be paid to education and skills development. Our policy focus in education must be to give our children the life skills to meet the challenges of the future and provide for them greater opportunities.

For this to happen, we have to train more teachers, computerise our schools, pursue curricula reform, move towards universal secondary education and expand tertiary education. Aggressively pursue the diffusion of science and Information Technology in all sectors to enhance productivity and create jobs.

We have to train and retrain our workers to function effectively in this new dispensation.

We must also continue to make strategic investments in infrastructural development to improve the efficiency of our private sector and create jobs for our young people.

The construction of the Guyana-Brazil Road, development of a deep port harbour, expansion of our electrification programme and greater competition in the telecommunications sector will help our private sector to become more competitive.

These efforts must be supported by social sector investments. We will accelerate our housing drive, improve the quality of and enhance access to heath care, water, and other social amenities.

We must expand opportunities and create more facilities in sports and culture for our young people to realise their full potential. Our country can produce more champions like Andrew Lewis.

We must work together to achieve our great potential. I urge parents in the home, religious leaders in the Mandirs, Churches and Mosques and members of civil society to contribute a little more to create a more compassionate society.

Our foreparents did not conceive us in passive roles in an Independent Guyana. It is only by our involvement will we realise our common aspirations. I know that you all share my deep love for this country - our homeland. I have every confidence that we will survive and grow stronger as a nation.

The future belongs to those who are prepared to meet it. I urge us to be courageous. Let us march forth fearlessly in unity.

Long Live Guyana!